Angels & Assholes for January 5, 2018

Hi, kids!

It’s time once again to turn a jaundiced eye toward the newsmakers of the day – the winners and losers – who, in my cynical opinion, either contributed to our quality of life, or detracted from it, in some significant way.

Let’s look at who tried to screw us – and who tried to save us – during the week that was:

 Asshole:          Daytona Beach City Commission    

A common theme found in these posts is my vehement opposition to government’s open meddling in the marketplace.

In Volusia County municipalities, this takes many forms – from near instantaneous corporate welfare approval for billionaires, to asinine regulations and bureaucratic roadblocks that require entrepreneurs jump through progressive hoops, incur massive expense, and wait months to open a business.

This problem isn’t limited to Daytona Beach.

I’ve spoken to small business owners who have faced hurdles so onerous they simply gave up and invested in other areas of Central Florida – or hired lawyers to navigate the process – adding additional expense and aggravation.

It’s like running a gauntlet, and this is happening in struggling communities that can ill afford to miss any opportunity to expand their tax base.

Last year, after an eight-month fight – which included an ordinance change – The Nines Parlor, in my view, the premiere tattoo artist in the region, was permitted to open in a strip center on Beville Road in Daytona Beach.

Since then, this highly successful shop has renovated space and hired new employees to serve an expanding customer base.  In fact, the artist’s services are in such demand that there is a waiting period for an appointment.

For other tattoo businesses the battle at City Hall continues.

For months, Robert Mansour attempted to open an upscale tattoo shop on Beach Street in Downtrodden Downtown Daytona.  He offered generous concessions, and acted in good faith to meet ridiculous bureaucratic demands.

After all the blank stares from the economic development-types, silly committee meetings and absurd game-play – at the end of the day – this strategic foot-dragging was best explained by the stupid personal opinions of City Commissioners Ruth Trager and Robert Gilliland.

According to a recent editorial in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Trager said it wasn’t so much Mansour’s high-end operation that concerned her as it was changing the rules to allow someone else to open a tattoo shop that could be “less than desirable.”

Say what?

Let me interpret Ms. Trager’s quibbling bullshit:  She doesn’t like the idea of tattoo parlors – so nobody gets them. 

Commissioner Gilliland was less cryptic when announcing “it’s unlikely” he would support the rezoning because he doesn’t “see any public purpose or good” in it.

Trust me – there are several things Mr. Gilliland has done and said in the past that I didn’t see any public purpose or good in. . .

On Wednesday, Mr. Mansour’s battle ended when the commission made good on their threat to defeat the required zoning change.

Only Commissioners Aaron Delgado and Dannette Henry had the courage and sagacity to support the rezoning.

Note to the Daytona Beach City Commission:  Beach Street is on life support.  Consider trying something new and innovative to breathe life into your beleaguered downtown while someone still cares.   

Why are local community’s intent on killing commerce in their redevelopment areas?

In my view, there is no room for this level of bias and maladministration in the process of approving or rejecting otherwise legal and regulated commerce.

Sitting politicians should not serve as subjective executioners – deciding, based solely on their personal whims, which businesses will be permitted (even supported with public funds) to compete in the marketplace – and which will be officiously strangled out of existence.

It is the epitome of political arrogance – and a disservice to the citizens they serve.

Either the City of Daytona Beach, and other municipalities, have a fair and unbiased process leading to a business tax receipt, or they don’t; and its high time those wet mice over at the Chamber of Commerce grow some huevos and demand a level playing field for investors wishing to do business in the Halifax area.

With millions of taxpayer dollars being pissed-away on the dubious pursuit of “economic development” throughout Volusia County, perhaps it’s time these obstructionist politicians are put out to pasture – and We, The People receive a full accounting for the money spent.

Asshole:          County Chair Ed Kelley & County Manager Jim Dinneen

Just weeks ago, Ed Kelley and Jim Dinneen took their Dog and Pony Show designed to drum up support for the proposed one-cent sales tax increase to the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce’s monthly “Eggs & Issues” breakfast meeting.

Normally, these things provide an opportunity for our “movers & shakers” to listen to each other talk – but during their December get-together, our doddering fool of a County Chairman made an extraordinary announcement:  The time is right to relocate the City Island Library and free the land for commercial development.

According to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, when asked if its time to consider moving the library, County Manager Jim Dinneen said funding “hasn’t been identified at this time.”

Not to be deterred, Chairman Kelley advised that he supports, “reallocating some funds to make it happen.”

Then, Mr. Kelley explained why he supports closing the library and handing the property over to developers:

“Now would be the time,” Kelley said. “You have a situation where the library flooded. Do we want to go down this road again? I think if the opportunity presents itself, along with everything that’s happening, with Brown & Brown and (the courthouse), to have the ability to move or relocate the library only makes sense from an economic standpoint.”

Naturally, Mr. Kelley’s bombshell resulted in a strong response from, well, anyone and everyone who cares about the future of the Halifax area.  His monstrously stupid idea resulted in a landslide of angry questions – and fueled speculation that Volusia County is planning to remove established public amenities from City Island to make way for private development.

Then, after his suggestion went over like a turd in the punch bowl, at this week’s County Council meeting, Mr. Kelley took the time to explain to us all what he didn’t say.

Reacting to the public outcry, Kelley stammered out his patented double-speak, “I never, ever once said to tear the library down, I said we should look at possibly relocating it, and if I didn’t say ‘possibly,’ that’s what I meant.”

 I’m sorry – normally I can interpret Old Ed’s yammering, but I admit – I have no frigging idea what he was trying to say.

He supports moving the library, but not tearing down the vacant, flood-damaged building?

Then, Ed just kept digging the hole:

“My statement was, ‘Yes, we should look at it,’” he said. “I think anytime there’s an opportunity to make something better, you look at it. Who would want to have a closed mind about something?”

That’s not what you said, Eddie.

I think you specifically said, “Now would be the time.”

Let’s look at the facts – Chairman Kelley told a room full of like-types that he supports reallocating funds to move the City Island Library as part of a larger plan to demolish the Courthouse Annex and turn the property over for private development.

Later, Kelley went so far as to describe the land’s potential use to a reporter, “It could be a private use that could generate jobs or provide residences, but it’s not up to me to say what should go there. … We (the council) should evaluate the situation.”

Fortunately, Mr. Dinneen was able to provide worried constituents the final say on the fate of the City Island Library – “There is no plan to move that building.”

Or did he?

Trust me – the Dinneen administration can come up with a “plan” for just about anything.

If you don’t believe me – just ask the citizens of Holly Hill how Volusia County’s library plans worked out for them.

During the meeting, Mr. Dinneen took a moment to quash “rumors” that additional county services would be removed from New Smyrna Beach.

I mean, the New Smyrna Beach courthouse was recently shuttered to force the issue of Dinneen’s $260 million-dollar Taj Mahal court/office facility on Beach Street – so the good people of southeast Volusia had every right to be concerned.

In my view, this all-to-frequent ham-handed bullshit which passes for public communication is an abomination.

The complete lack of clarity on important public policy decisions, coupled with Mr. Dinneen’s pathological secretiveness, leave constituents grasping for clues and openly hypothesizing about “what comes next.”

Add to that the complete ineptitude and out-of-touch fumbling of our dotty chairman, and you begin to see the utter dysfunction that surrounds everything this administration does – or says.

Clearly, it is time for citizens to demand our elected officials develop a legitimate method for evaluating the effectiveness and professionalism of this continuing catastrophe of a County Manager, beyond simply rubber stamping an annual pay increase.

Angel:             Editor Pat Rice and The Daytona Beach News-Journal

In my view, our local newspaper continues to impress with their renewed focus on the serious issues facing thousands of struggling families on Florida’s Fun Coast.

The News-Journal is interested in telling an important story – one that is familiar to some 104,000 families who are raising children and making a life at or below Volusia County’s dismal median household income of just $42, 240.

With real estate marketing agencies and politicians whooping it up over the uptick in “opportunities” for millionaire’s in Volusia County – I find it refreshing that our newspaper is willing to look beyond the exuberant sound bites and bullshit catchphrases to examine a grim problem with long-term social and economic implications for all of us.

Good work.

Angel:             Volusia Mall

 Like most shopping malls that came into vogue during the 1970’s, the Volusia Mall is suffering the debilitating effects of advanced age.  I still drop in from time-to-time, usually to grab a beer and sandwich at Mr. Dunderbak’s – or buy a pair of shoes at Dillard’s.

Let’s face it, the look and feel of a once vibrant shopping center sitting vacant and abandoned to the elements is incredibly depressing – psychologically and economically.  So, it’s nice to see that Volusia Mall is working hard to stay relevant in a marketplace still dominated by the big box stores.

It was announced this week that the mall’s owner – Tennessee-based CBL & Associates Properties – recently purchased the Sear’s auto center with plans to put at least two national chain restaurants on the site by year’s end.

These new additions will join Bahama Breeze, Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen, Applebee’s, Houligan’s and several other successful establishments within a stone’s throw of the mall’s perimeter road.

Regular readers of this forum know that I’m not one to take things at face value.

No, I’m the dipshit that always takes the deeper dive, broods and considers what progress in one area might mean for folks in other parts of town.

Clearly, there is a virtual friction fire happening on International Speedway Boulevard as restaurants and retail take proximal advantage of One Daytona’s growing popularity – the shopping, dining and entertainment complex that you and I bankrolled to the tune of some $40 million in public funds for the France family – located “synergistically” across from Daytona International Speedway.

We are witnessing a weird, but not unexpected, decentralization in Daytona Beach – a fast exodus away from the stubborn issues plaguing the aging core city for the promise and prospects in the pine scrub west of town.

Professional urban planners often speak in terms of “Push forces” – things which spur movement away from undesirable conditions – and “Pull forces” – attributes which attract people and commerce to better opportunities.

If you live, work and play in the Halifax area, you don’t need to me to identify the Push/Pull influences that are actively driving residential and commercial development at our western fringe.

These factors are self-evident everywhere you look.

Look, I’m not a member of the Beachside Redevelopment Committee – but if I were – I might suggest examining area dynamics that repel and attract – and how they might be effectively managed to stimulate the revitalization of our struggling core tourist area.

Regardless, in my view, it is patently immoral for sitting politicians and so-called “redevelopment officials” to turn their collective back on the problems of blight, dilapidation and hopelessness that permeate much of coastal Volusia County as they focus efforts exclusively on points west.

While the current interest in West ISB might give Chairman Ed Kelley something to take credit for at that pompous snoozefest known as the State of the County Address, in my view, fawning over the new puppy while the broken-down old dog starves for attention is wrong.

Quote of the Week:

“Leave the beach, its vendors and City Island alone.  If we want to see something akin to a carnival, we’ll attend the County Council meetings.”

 –Mr. George Rose, South Daytona, January 3, 2018, Letter to the Editor, Daytona Beach News-Journal

Well said, sir.  Well said.

Have a great weekend, friends.

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